May 31, 2012
Voyager Academy's high school baseball team (20-6) has made an unlikely run to the 1-A State Championship and will face South Stanly (27-4) this weekend for the title.
"I don't think anyone in their wildest imagination thought we'd make the championship series," said head coach Pete Shankle. "No one on the planet believes that we can beat these guys but us."
Shankle came to Voyager two years ago to start up the new baseball program. He had retired after spending several years at Northern and Southern Durham but said he missed the game.
"I thought it'd be interesting to come into a brand new program and see if we could turn it around," said Shankle.
And they did. With a team made up of only freshmen and sophomores, Shankle has led them all the way to the state championship series.
Shankle said it didn't take more than meeting his players to know he made the right decision.
"It's been a lot of fun, coach always talked about how much fun it'd be if we got here and it's definitely been that much fun," said sophomore shortstop Loy Stone. "We definitely want to keep trying to work hard and come back each year."
Most of the players have been together since middle school and playing baseball with each other just comes naturally.
"Our coaches, our players, our practices make us think that we can win," said sophomore second baseman Chad Sykes.
The young team knows their strengths and weaknesses and Shankle said it's been fun seeing them grow.
"Not many of us have faced the good pitching we've seen lately, you can tell we've won games by one run in the last inning so it's been our defense and our pitching that has kept us in it," said Stone.
With the success they've already had, it's hard for the team not to look ahead.
"These are just freshman and sophomores, in a few years, we could be pretty good," said Shankle.
"By the end of our four years, I definitely think we'll win a state championship before it's over," said Sykes.
But for now the focus is game 1 of the State Championship Series at 5 p.m. Friday and then game 2, Saturday at 11 a.m. If the Championship Series goes to a 3rd deciding game, then it's game 3 which will be played at 5 p.m. Saturday.
"Competing to the best of our ability and hopefully coming out with a win, if not, at least we had fun," said Stone.